Can you believe we're talking about Mardi Gras 2016 already? Well, that's because it's going to be very early this year -- Feb. 9!

Plans for Southwest Louisiana's many Mardi Gras celebrations were released today by the Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitor's Bureau. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Twelfth Night -- Jan. 6:  The official start of Mardi Gras season, Twelfth Night celebrations will return to the Lake Charles Civic Center with the traditional indoor parade, featuring kings and queens of more than 60 krewes. Tickets $5 in advance/$6 at the door. Children 5 and under admitted free.
  • Miss Mardi Gras Pageant -- Jan. 9:  Young ladies from Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jeff Davis Parishes ages 5 to 23 are eligible to compete in eight age categories. The event starts at 10 a.m. for the younger divisions at the Rosa Hart Theater and continues at 6:30 p.m. for the older divisions. Entry forms are available at Rhinestone Runway and at Mary Olive and Company and can also be obtained online at www.swlamardigras.com. The deadline to enter is Wednesday, Jan. 6.
  • Vinton Mardi Gras -- Jan. 23: Vinton's Mardi Gras parade will start at 2 p.m., running through downtown and ending at the KC Hall. The gumbo competition will start there at 3 p.m. with free gumbo tastings after the judging. For more information on the event and updates, call Vinton City Hall at (337) 589-7453.
  • Sulphur Mardi Gras -- Jan. 30: The City of Sulphur will hold its events on Jan. 30 with a King Cake taste-off, a parade and a festival. The parade will start at 2 p.m. from Cypress Street to Heritage Square. Once at Heritage Square, there will be live music, games for kids and food vendors until 6:30 p.m. Contact Kaitlyn Gallegos at (337) 313-1302 or e-mail kgallegos@sulphur.org.
  • Merchant's Parade -- Feb. 5: The annual Merchant's PArade will be held at 7 p.m. on Feb. 5. Float fees are $55.
  • Omega, Barkus Parades -- Feb. 6: The 50th annual Krewe of Omega Parade will start at 2 p.m., followed by the Krewe of Barkus Parade at 3 p.m.
  • Gumbo Cook-off/Zydeco Dance -- Feb. 6: Seafood, wild game and traditional chicken and sausage gumbo will be filling every pot at the annual Gumbo Cookoff. Both amateur and professional teams welcome. Cooking starts at 7 a.m. with judging at 11:30 a.m. and then servings to the public at 1:30 p.m. Admission is $5. Contact Katie Harrington at (337) 526-9009 for more information.
  • Artist Summer Richard-Boudreaux and Alyssa Ceasar, Miss Mardi Gras (SWLA Convention and VIsitor's Bureau)

    Children's Day/Parade, Lighted Boat Parade -- Feb. 7: Even though all Lake Charles Mardi Gras events are family-friendly, a special day is set aside for kids at the Lake Charles Civic Center. There will be exhibitions, hands-on activities and music with free admission. The parade starts at 2 p.m. At 7 p.m. the Lighted Boat Parade will take place at the seawall.

  • The Royal Gala -- Feb. 8: Known as the "Cinderella" night of Mardi Gras, the Gala will have a lavish promenade in full regalia at the Lake Charles Civic Center. Music and dancing are part of the night. Advance tickets $5/at the door, $6. Children 5 and under admitted free.
  • Krewe of the Golden Years Ball -- Feb. 8: The Calcasieu Parish Council on Aging will hold the Krewe of the Golden Years Mardi Gras Ball at the Lake Charles Civic Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Attendants are encouraged to wear masks and traditional dress. Live music, breakfast and lunch will be available. The event is free for seniors 60 and over.
  • Iowa Chicken Run -- Feb. 9: Iowa's 38th annual Mardi Gras Run will start at 8 a.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Highway 90. Float line ups start at 9 a.m., with the parade rolling at 10 a.m. The parade will stop at local businesses and through neighborhoods looking for gumbo ingredients. Children will have the chance to chase live chickens. Entry fee is $10 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under. For more information, contact Rodney Victorian at (337) 842-1875 or Kimmy Bellard at (337) 884-1403.
  • Motor Gras/Krewe of Krewes Parades -- Feb. 9: The Motor Gras classic hot rod and motorcycle parade will start at 11 a.m. The grand finale, the Krewe of Krewes Parade, will take place at 5 p.m. Both events will run down Ryan Street.
  • To download entry forms or find out more about Mardi Gras in Southwest Louisiana, log onto www.swlamardigras.com or call the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors’ Bureau at (337) 436-9588.